Thursday, 2 November 2006
Medibank Private Sale Bill 2006
Allotment of Time; Second Reading
I have had advice from the clerks in relation to this matter, and I thank the Manager of Opposition Business for raising the issue in the interests of members who may be subject to a view that they have an interest in the fund, who may have expressed some concern. Standing order 134 provides that a member may not vote in a division on a question about a matter, other than public policy, in which they have a direct pecuniary interest. House of Representatives Practice indicates that public policy may be defined as government policy not identifying any particular person individually or immediately. I have had a look at the precedents in the past, and it does seem that, for example, the ownership of shares generally in a company has not excluded persons from participating in votes where their interests have been affected simply as a shareholder in a company that would be affected by a change in policy. So in that manner the precedents do not seem to indicate that members would need to disqualify themselves on the basis of the previous application of standing orders, as the matter before the House could be thought to and would relate to a matter of public policy.
The chair, of course, has no reason to ascertain the individual circumstances of members as to whether any might have any specifically additional interest that might be material in relation to their right to vote upon the matter. However, it is open for any member to raise, under standing order 134, a motion challenging the right of members to participate in a division, afterwards. That appears to be the only manner that is open in those circumstances. But, on the precedents that I have been able to ascertain from the Practice and the clerks I would advise that it would seem that, whether or not there is a pecuniary interest in the circumstances, it would not preclude a member exercising a right to vote in the House.
That the bill be now read a second time.